Chris Lange, FISM News
The Biden administration has approved more than $2 billion in military aid to Ukraine and 18 neighboring countries threatened by Russia.
During a surprise visit to Kyiv early on Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with senior Ukrainian officials and announced the long-term foreign military financing for Ukraine, NATO members, and regional security partners he described as “most potentially at risk for future Russian aggression,” according to an Associated Press report.
The announcement came just a day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that Biden had approved another $675 million weapons package for Ukraine during a meeting of defense ministers at Ramstein air base in Germany.
“This contact group needs to position itself to sustain Ukraine’s brave defenders for the long haul,” Austin said at the meeting. “That means a continued and determined flow of capability now.”
Washington has already provided more than $10 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since Russian troops invaded on Feb. 24.
Zelenskyy announces the recapture of Kharkiv territories
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his forces have recaptured some territory from Russia as military analysts described what appeared to be “a deep and sudden thrust behind Russian lines.”
Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Wednesday that his forces liberated several settlements by means of a counter-offensive in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine that borders Russia.
“This week we have good news from Kharkiv Oblast. All of you have most likely seen reports about the recent activities of Ukrainian defenders. And I think every citizen feels proud of our warriors,” Zelenskyy said as he praised the bravery of his forces. He did not name the towns and villages that were reclaimed.
Heavy fighting was also reported on Thursday in areas near the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in Ukraine after Kyiv warned it might have to shut down the plant to avoid disaster. Ukrainian officials urged residents near the plant to evacuate out of concern for their safety.
Putin defiant against Western sanctions
Russian President Vladimir Putin hurled barbs at the U.S. Wednesday, saying Washington’s “sanction inferno” is ushering in the West’s downfall and paving the way for Asia to usurp America’s position as the world’s powerhouse, Fox News reported.
Speaking to world leaders at the East Economic Forum, Putin said Russia was targeted with crushing sanctions in a desperate attempt by the US to combat its “waning dominance.”
“Western countries are seeking to preserve yesterday’s world order,” Putin claimed.
Putin’s remarks coincided with the announcement that he and China’s President Xi will meet face to face next week for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine. The two countries are currently conducting joint military exercises, alongside India and several former Soviet states. Western leaders have cautioned that the growing alliance between Putin and Xi heralds a rise in authoritarianism.
Putin also said in a speech on Wednesday that Russia would not lose its “special military operation” in Ukraine, which he has repeatedly justified as a necessary response to the threat of NATO expansion along Russia’s borders.
Putin said of the conflict, “We have not lost anything and will not lose anything,” despite ongoing reports of heavy losses, recruitment problems, and dwindling weapons supplies that have forced Moscow to seek weapons and ammunition from North Korea and Iran.
The Kremlin leader further announced that Moscow is prepared to completely shut off all energy supplies to Europe if Brussels doesn’t back down from its proposed price cap on Russian gas.
Europe gets roughly 40% of its gas and 30% of its oil from Russia.
Both the U.S. and France have accused the Kremlin of using energy as a weapon against Europe’s efforts to cripple its economy with sanctions in objection to its invasion, an accusation Putin denies.
Japan and India hold security talks amid tensions surrounding war games
Foreign and defense ministers from Japan and India are holding security talks in Tokyo Thursday in an attempt to bolster their military ties amid increased tensions from Russia and China in the region.
The Associated Press reported that Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada met with his Indian counterpart Rajnat Singh ahead of the security talks, which come amid heightened tensions over Russia’s multinational military exercises that have included activity on Kremlin-held disputed lands over which Japan claims sovereignty. India’s military has been participating in the exercises.
Japan and India held their first “2+2” joint security meeting in 2019.